Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

it is written, he shall give his angels charge concerning thee, and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. Jesus said unto him, thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God. Again the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them, and saith unto him, all these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. Then said Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan, for it is written, thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve, Then the devil leaveth him, and behold angels came and ministered unto him."*

[ocr errors]

Such is the history given by the Evangelists of our Lord's temptation, which has been a subject of much discussion among learned men. It is well known in particular that several ancient commentators as well as many able and pious men of our own times, have thought that this temptation was not a real transaction, but only a vision or prophetic trance, similar to that which Ezekiel describes in the 8th chapter of his prophecy, and to that which befel St. Peter when he saw a vessel descending unto him from heaven, and let down to the earth. And it must be acknowledged that this opinion is supported by many specious argu ments, and seems to remove some considerable difficulties. But upon the whole there are I think stronger reasons for adhering to the literal interpretation, than for recurring to a visionary representation.

For in the first place, it is a rule admitted and estab, lished by the best and most judicious interpreters, that in explaining the sacred writings we ought never, with out the most apparent and most indispensable necessity, allow ourselves the liberty of departing from the plain, obvious, and literal meaning of the words. Now, I conceive that no such necessity can be alledged in the present instance. It is true, that there are in this nar rative many difficulties, and many extraordinary, sur prising, and miraculous incidents. But the whole his.

Matth. iv. 1-11.

Acts x. 10-16.

tory of our Saviour is wonderful and miraculous from beginning to end; and if whenever we meet with a difficulty or a miracle, we may have recourse to figure, metaphor, or vision, we shall soon reduce a great part of the sacred writings to nothing else. Besides, these difficulties will several of them admit of a fair solution; and where they do not, as they affect no article of faith or practice, they must be left among those inscrutable mysteries which it is natural to expect in a revelation from heaven. This we must after all be content to do, even if we adopt the idea of vision; for even that does not remove every difficulty, and it creates some that do not attach to the literal interpretation.

2. In the next place, I cannot find in any part of this narrative of the temptation the slightest or most distant intimation that it is nothing more than a vision.The very first words with which it commences seem to imply the direct contrary. "Then was Jesus led up of the spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil." Does not this say in the most express terms that our Lord was led, not in a dream, or trance, or vision, but was actually and literally led by the spirit into the wilderness of Judea? There is, I know, an interpretation which explains away this obvious meaning. But that interpretation rests solely on the doubtful signification of a single Greek particle, which is surely much too slender a ground to justify a departure from the plain and literal sense of the passage. Certain it is, that if any one had meant to describe a real transaction, he could not have selected any expressions better adapted to that purpose than those actually made use of by the Evangelist; and I believe no one at his first reading our Lord's temptation ever entertained the slightest idea of its being a visionary representation.

3. There is an observation which has been made, and which has great weight in this question. It is this: All the prophets of the Old Testament, except Moses, saw visions, and dreamed dreams, and the prophets of the New did the same. St. Peter had a vision, St. John saw visions, St. Paul had visions and dreams: but

Christ himself neither saw visions nor dreamed dreams. He had an intimate and immediate communication with the Father; and he, and no one else in his days, had seen the Father. The case was the same with Mo

ses; he saw God face to face. "If there be a prophet among you, says God to Aaron, and Mirriam, I the Lord will make myself known to him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream. My servant Moses is not so, who is faithful in all my house; with him will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently not in dark speeches; and the similitude of the Lord shall he behold."* Now Moses we all know was a type of Christ; and the resemblance holds between them in this instance as well as in many others. They neither of them had visions or dreams, but had both an immediate communication with God. They both "saw God face to face." This was a distinction and a mark of dignity peculiar to those two only, to the great legislator of the Jews, and the great legislator of the Christians. It is therefore inconsistent with this high privilege, this mark of superior eminence, to suppose that our Lord was tempted in a vision, when we see no other instance of a vision in the whole course of his ministry.

4. There is still another consideration which militates strongly against the supposition of a visionary temptation. It was in itself extremely probable that there should be a real and personal conflict between Christ and Satan, when the former was entering upon his public ministry.

It is well known that the great chief of the fallen angels, who is described in scripture under the various names of Satan, Beelzebub, the Devil, and the Prince of the devils, has ever been an irreconcileable enemy of the human race, and has been constantly giving the most decided and most fatal proofs of this enmity from the beginning of the world to this hour. His hostility began with the very first creation of man upon earth, when he no sooner discovered our first parents in that state of innocence and happiness in which the gracious † Exod. xxxiii. 11.

Numb. xii. 6-8.

hand of the Almighty had just placed them, than with a malignity truly diabolical, he resolved if possible to destroy all this fair scene of virtuous bliss, and to plunge them into the gulph of sin and misery. For this purpose he exerted all his art and subtilty and powers of persuasion; and how well he succeeded we all know and feel. From that hour he established and exercised an astonishing dominion over the minds of men, leading them into such acts of folly, stupidity, and wickedness, as can on no other principle be accounted for.At the time of our Saviour's appearance his tyranny seems to have arrived at its utmost height, and to have extended to the bodies as well as to the souls of men, of both which he sometimes took absolute possession : as we see in the history of those unhappy persons mentioned in scripture whom we call demoniacs and who were truly said to be possessed by the devil. It was therefore extremely natural to suppose that when he found there was a great and extraordinary personage who had just made his appearance in the world, who was said to be the Son of God, the promised Saviour of mankind, that seed of the woman who was to bruise the serpent's head; it was natural that he should be exceedingly alarmed at these tidings, that he should tremble for his dominion; that he should first endeavour to ascertain the fact, whether this was really the Christ or not; and if it turned out to be so, that he should exert his utmost efforts to subdue this formida ble enemy, or at least to seduce him from his allegi ance to God, and divert him from his benevolent purposé towards man. He had ruined the first Adam, and he might therefore flatter himself with the hope of be ing equally successful with the second Adam. He had entailed a mortal disease on the human race; and to prevent their recovery from that disease, and their restoration to virtue and to happiness, would be a triumph indeed, a conquest worthy of the prince of devils,

On the other hand it was equally probable that our blessed Lord would think it a measure highly proper to

begin his ministry with shewing a decided superiority over the great adversary of man, whose empire he was going to abolish; with manifesting to mankind that the great Captain of their salvation was able to accomplish the important work he had undertaken, and with setting an example of virtuous firmness to his followers, which might encourage them to resist the most powerful temptations that the prince of darkness could throw in their way.

These considerations, in addition to many others, afford a strong ground for believing that the temptation of Christ in the wilderness was, as the history itself plainly intimates, a real transaction, a personal contest between the great enemy and redeemer of the human race; and in this point of view therefore I shall proceed to consider some of the most remarkable circumstances attending it, and the practical uses resulting from it.*

We are told in the first place that "Jesus was led up of the spirit into the wilderness," that is, not by the evil spirit but by the spirit of God, by the suggestions and by the impulse of the Holy Ghost, of whose divine influences he was then full. For the time when this happened was immediately after his baptism, which is related in the conclusion of the preceding chapter.We are there informed that Jesus when he was baptized went up straightway out of the water, and lo the heavens were opened, and he saw the spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him. And lo a voice from heaven saying, This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased. Then (it immediately follows)

[ocr errors]

It is an ingenius observation of a learned friend of mine, that the temptation of Christ in the wilderness bears an evident analogy to the trial of Adam in Paradise, and elucidates the nature of that trial in which the tempter prevailed and man fell. The second Adam, who undertook the cause of fall. en men, was subjected to temptation by the same apostate spirit. Herein the tempter failed, and the second Adam in consequence became the restorer of the fallen race of the first. St. Paul in more places than one, points out the resemblance between the first Adam and the second, and the temptation in the wilderness exhibits a most interesting transaction, where the second Adam was actually placed in a situation very similar to that of the first. The secrets of the Most High are unfathomable to short-sighted mortals; but it would appear from what may be humbly learnt and inferred from this trans ́action, that our blessed Lord's temptation by Satan was a necessary part in the divine economy towards accomplishing the redemption of mankind.

Matth. iii. 16, 17.

« AnteriorContinuar »